January – Shoulder Stand – getting to know your inner light

January is a perfect time to stand in reflection. The business of the holidays has died down, it is dark, cold and quiet. It is a wonderful time to take a look inside and find out what really stoked your inner fire during 2017. What people, what activities, what experiences gave you more life and made you feel more free, made your inner light shine brighter? And how can we support you in bringing more of that into 2018?

Shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana)

So sometimes we don’t see new things if we keep look at something from the same perspective. If you want some insight, new information, new solutions, deeper understanding, change your perspective. Inversions in yoga give us the opportunity to do just that. Think about it…same room, same body, same head, but somehow when you go upside down, the view completely changes. The windows don’t look quite the same, the floor you can suddenly see in more detail, and wow does your body look different upside down.

For me Salamba Sarvangasana does a wonderful job of shifting your perspective, particularly in relationship with the body. Again same room, same body, but somehow when your feet are pointed to the sky, things look very different. And since shoulder stand is supported you can stay there for a long time (75 breaths). You aren’t going anywhere – you are staring at your belly and your feet without the help of gravity for 75 breaths. You begin to develop a new relationship with your body, you have a new perspective and maybe a new appreciation for what it is doing, can do, and has done.

The transformative power of deep inward folding comes from this practice of turning our gaze inward to ourselves – not to the person next to you or the instructor or the dog barking outside. It is the practice of focusing inward long enough to see your inner light and darkness. And with time we are able to really see and acceptance both the light and the dark. It is in the acceptance that the darkness begins to transform.

Physical effects of shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana) are profound.

…soothes the nervous system, and promotes patience and emotional stability. The inverted state in this asana stimulates oxygenated blood supply to the chest area, which is considered to assist the healing of ailments in this region (e.g. bronchitis and asthma). The chin lock of Sarvangasana stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid glands, which are involved in the regulation of the nervous and muscular systems (parathyroid) and metabolism (thyroid).

BKS Iyengar says of Salamba Savangasana that “[i]t is a panacea for most common ailments. There are several endocrine organs or ductless glands in the human system which bathe in blood, absorb nutrients from the blood and secrete hormones for the proper functioning of a balanced and well enveloped body and brain. If the glands fail to function properly, the hormones are not produced as they should be and the body starts to deteriorate. Savangasana has a direct effect on thyroid and parathyroid glands which are situated on the neck region, since due to the firm chinlock their blood supply is increased, helping them to function properly.” (Light on Yoga, p. 171) For these reasons the pose is vital to the maintenance of general physical and mental health.

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